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Tess is a cozy mystery writer who has a speaking engagement at a library in Chicopee, Massachusetts. After the event, the librarian who had invited her, Ramona Norville, tells Tess to avoid Interstate 84. She gives Tess the directions to Stagg Road, a presumably safer shortcut to Tess' home in Connecticut. However, on the shortcut, Tess' Ford Expedition rolls over nail-studded pieces of wood which lie across the road, giving her a flat tire. The incident happens by an abandoned Esso gas station.
Shortly afterwards, a big man (Tess guesses he's 6' 6") in a pickup offers to assist Tess. At first, the trucker seems to be eager to help, but he soon darkens. Tess realizes that the driver had set out the road hazard. He knocks Tess out and proceeds to brutally rape and beat her, before finally choking her to unconsciousness. She later wakes up and feigns death as he stashes her body in a culvert and drives away. After the man has left, Tess escapes, but sees several other murdered women, all victims of the same man, lying dead in the pipe. Tess escapes to try and find some help, but as she walks, she worries that the attack will create a scandal. She believes that people would write that she was "asking for it", and her name as an author would be dragged through the mud. She decides that she cannot mentally endure another trauma, and instead goes home without telling anyone.
The next day, while recovering her vehicle at a bar called the Stagger Inn, a place near the abandoned Esso station, Tess speaks with Betsy, who works at the bar. Tess fabricates a story about her injuries but describes her assailant to Betsy. Betsy asks "Was he big, or REAL big?" Betsy then tells Tess that a man called "Big Driver" matches Tess' description. Tess decides to use the detective skills she acquired while writing her novels to find "her" rapist, Big Driver.
Tess discovers that Big Driver's mother is the librarian Ramona Norville, who had given her the directions to Stagg Road, and deduces that Ramona intentionally directed her to the trap laid down by Big Driver. Tess goes to Norville's home and, after confirming that Norville was indeed guilty of directing Tess into the trap, kills Norville. Tess finds Big Driver's address and goes to his house. She lies in wait and shoots Big Driver after he arrives home. It is only after he is dead that Tess determines that Big Driver actually is the even larger (6' 9") older brother of the man who really raped her, a man referred to as "Little Driver." Stunned, Tess nevertheless drives to Little Driver's house and kills him.
Unsure of Big Driver's involvement in her rape, and overcome with guilt over possibly having murdered an innocent man, she writes out a confession and prepares to kill herself. At the last moment, however, she decides to go back to Big Driver's house to look for evidence. And, in fact, she finds the purse taken from her the night of the rape, confirming Big Driver's complicity in her rape.
Tess comes to terms with her sins and goes home, finally beginning to feel peace.
- Entertainment Weekly November 12, 2010